ALPENA - For all those caught up in the holiday season's ancillary novelties and commercial traditions, there are others for whom the season brings new focus on life's most important blessing - the gift of family.
Mike and Lorilee McGee of Alpena officially welcomed a new son, 10-month old Gabriel, into their home on National Adoption Day, Nov. 20, only a year after starting the adoption process. Lorilee said she was no stranger to the process or success of adoption, as her own parents had a foster care license and raised her with three biological siblings and two adopted ones.
"When we found out we couldn't have kids, we knew that we wanted to adopt, and we knew there were a lot of kids in the foster care system, and this was probably the best route for us to go," she said. "We actually had the first case worker at our house on last year's Adoption Day, so it was kind of full circle when we had the adoption party, because that was the same day that we started it last year, so it went really fast."
She said Gabriel's adoption was a Godsend for her and Mike in several respects, a vindication following two foster care opportunities that fell through and an answer to their prayers as aspiring parents. Gabriel had been living with the McGees for six months prior to the official adoption, but after waiting so long for a son or daughter, Lorilee said true parenthood felt like a "Christmas miracle."
"We're very religious people, and this is, to us, a God thing. We've prayed for this for a long time, and for this to happen within a year, and especially an infant within a year, it's nothing short of a miracle," she said. "We're very blessed with everything falling into place. My mom watches him during the day, so it's not like we have to put him in day care, so he's with family and everything like that. Our whole situation is just in the perfect spot to start a family now."
Mike, an only child, said he was looking forward to the "awesome" new responsibility and adventure of parenthood and encouraged other parents to consider adoption.
"There are a lot of kids from his age all the way to teenagers that need a home," he said. "They need to find some sort of structure, some sort of love in the family."
The McGees rotate Christmas hosting duties with their many siblings, and by chance, this year's hosting duties fell to them. It seemed to them like one of many serendipitous turns in keeping with a religious season about family and the celebration of new life.
"It turned out that we're going to have Christmas here, which just makes it even more special," she said. "(Gabriel) is like our early Christmas present. In fact, I think at Christmas time I'm going to put a bow on his head and take a picture of him underneath the tree."
Heartened by the gift of parenthood, the McGees said this year's Christmas miracle is just the beginning.
"They asked us on Adoption Day, 'Are you ready for another one?'," Lorilee said. "Bring it on."
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693.